Millinocket council set to review Stearns boiler replacement engineer

Posted June 08, 2011, at 8:48 p.m.

MILLINOCKET ― Town leaders are set to decide Thursday whether to hire an engineering firm chosen by school officials to replace the balky heating system at Stearns High School.

The Millinocket School Committee voted 4-0, with member Donald Dow absent, to accept a bid proposal from Russ Martin Engineering to design a boiler system at the high school. At $34,000, Martin was the lowest bidder, Chairman Arnold Hopkins said.

Hopkins said he would encourage the Town Council to accept the board’s recommendation when councilors meet Thursday.

“The council realizes, as we do, that we have to do something about the heating system at the high school,” Hopkins said Wednesday. “The council outlined what they wanted us to do, and we did it.”

Attempts to reach the engineering firm were not successful on Wednesday.

Councilors rejected an earlier committee attempt to hire an engineer because school officials hadn’t sought bids. They directed the board to try to get bids from several contractors.

Sutton Engineering Systems also submitted a bid on the project, which was about twice Martin’s. School officials also sought bids from two firms that examined the school but didn’t bid, Hopkins said.

“If people don’t want to bid, you can’t make them,” Hopkins said.

Under the town charter, the committee is responsible for the oversight of the town’s public schools but the school system is a department within town government, and the council has the final say on town spending and the committee’s proposed budget.

If councilors accept the firm, Martin Engineering will be tasked with determining whether to replace two school steam boilers with two water boilers or whether to install one new water boiler and retrofit an old boiler as backup, Hopkins said.

It will be a big job, Superintendent Kenneth Smith said, involving the tearing out of one school exterior wall and replacing water pipes with steam pipes, but if all goes well, the work will be finished by mid-October, before winter.

“It’s critical that we get going and get the thing done,” Smith said.

The new system would run on No. 2 heating oil instead of the No. 5 oil the old system uses, producing a much cleaner burn and eventually some cost savings in maintenance and improved efficiency, Smith said.

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